Courtesy of Liam Brennan (left), Yale Daily News (right)

In less than two weeks, incumbent mayor Justin Elicker will face former Hartford Inspector General Liam Brennan in the New Haven Democratic primary, which will likely decide the mayoral race in the majority-Democratic city.

Elicker secured his spot on the primary ballot by winning the endorsement of the Democratic Town Committee in July. Brennan, who declined to be nominated for the committee’s endorsement, petitioned his way onto the ballot by gathering 1,850 signatures from registered Democrats in the city. Brennan was the only prospective candidate to collect enough valid signatures — 5 percent of registered Democrats in the city, or 1,623 signatures — to contest Elicker in the primary.

“As we’ve done … since April, we are knocking on doors every single day,” Brennan told the News. Brennan predicted that his campaign will soon knock every door in the city at least twice. Over months, his campaign made over 53,000 calls to voters.

Brennan credited his successful petition campaign to a focus on the quality and validity of signatures they were collecting. 

The mayoral challenger said that while talking to voters, he saw a demand for a responsive, accountable government and the “innovative local governance” he plans to bring to City Hall. 

While campaigning, Brennan has focused on the city’s affordable housing crisis, which he hopes to alleviate by modifying zoning regulations. He told the News he believes that the climate emergency the city declared in 2019 provides necessary authority for this action.  

Elicker is also optimistic about his reelection campaign, which he said is going “as planned.” Elicker told the News that the campaign has been meeting its fundraising goals and receiving “strongly supportive” feedback across the city.

Elicker focuses his messaging on housing, public safety and education — which he says are the most pressing issues in New Haven. He believes that, over the last four years, his administration has achieved considerable progress, citing the building or refurbishment of approximately 900 affordable units and the creation of after-school and summer tutoring programs for students. 

Shafiq Abdussabur, a retired police sergeant and former alder, and Tom Goldenberg, a former management consultant, also petitioned to be on the Democratic primary ballot, but both fell short of the signature threshold. They collected 1,406 and 1,122 valid signatures, respectively. 

The city clerk’s office disqualified petition signatures from both Abdussabur and Goldenberg after finding that they came from signers who were either not registered Democrats or not New Haven residents, which prevented the two candidates from making the primary. 

Abdussabur attempted to sue his way onto the primary ballot. In a ruling Wednesday morning, Superior Court Judge Paul R. Doyle decided that Abdussabur would not be on the primary ballot. 

Abdussabur will still be on the November ballot, however, because he has since registered to run as an independent. In a Thursday press conference, he said that his campaign is currently figuring out its next steps. 

Goldenberg will also appear on the November ballot, but as a Republican — the party cross-endorsed him.

“I’m not necessarily disappointed in not participating in the [Democratic] primary. We’re going to have a shot in November,” Goldenberg told the New Haven Independent

Nevertheless, the outcome of the mayoral race is likely to be decided in the primary — in every mayoral election since at least 2013, the Democratic nominee has gone on to win the general election in New Haven. 

Neither Elicker nor Brennan registered as independent candidates for the November election, and only the primary winner will proceed to the ballot as a Democrat. 

“I am a member of the Democratic party … and that’s where I think the best way to make the change that we need to make … plays out,” Brennan said, explaining his decision not to file as an independent. “I [am not going] to waste my time or the city’s time on that. This is not for my personal ego.” 

As for Elicker, he said he counts on winning the primary. 

“We are gonna push very hard to get people to the polls,” Elicker said. “Turnout is always a very important thing for us to accomplish in the city.”

Besides continuing to knock on doors and make phone calls, Brennan also plans to reach out to university students in New Haven. 

“There are a lot of progressive students out there who want to see change and who want to believe in government,” Brennan said. 

The two candidates will meet in a one-on-one debate on Sept. 5 and participate in a conversation at Yale Law School on Sept. 7.

Registered voters in New Haven who are also registered Democrats can cast their ballot in the Democratic primary on Sept. 12. 

Yurii Stasiuk is a Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. He previously covered City Hall as a beat reporter. Originally from Kalush, Ukraine, he is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College majoring in History and Political Science.